By: Ellie Kaverman, Bicentennial Graduate Assistant
When Title IX passed in 1972 to prohibit sex discrimination in education programs, it fundamentally shifted the treatment of women in athletics. Before Title IX, women’s athletic teams and participation in sports was frequently overlooked and overshadowed by their male counterparts.
All college athletics fundamentally changed after Title IX. In the same year that Title IX passed, IU women’s basketball had its inaugural season, coached by Bea Gorton.
Throughout the early 1970s Gorton led the team to multiple appearances in the Final Four and Elite Eight, all while remaining uncompensated by the university. The women’s basketball team did not fully integrate into the athletics department until 1974. Title IX directly spurred the creation of women’s basketball, volleyball, softball and cross-country teams at IU.
However, women were active in sports and physical education on IU Bloomington’s campus long before the 1970s and Title IX.
Physical education programs for women began at IU in 1890 with the opening of the women’s gymnasium. The program evolved throughout the ensuing decades, and in 1946, the women’s physical education department moved from the School of Education to the newly created School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) (The school was renamed the School of Public Health in 2012). The school had separate physical education departments for men and women until 1977 when the two combined into one department.
The small yet mighty faculty of the department of physical education for women sought to legitimize their field before Title IX. The leaders of the department provided access to physical education for undergraduate women on campus through intramural programs, academic curricula, and sports days.
Not only did the department of physical education for women shape the coed college experience of the 20th century, but the faculty themselves were also determined forerunners in the national movement to prioritize women’s athletics. The pioneering women of the department helped develop dance programs, form recreational studies, and various disciplines within public health.
Juliette Maxwell was born in Bloomington, IN in 1861 to family of IU alumnae; her grandfather, Dr. David H. Maxwell, is often referred to as “The Father of Indiana University.” Juliette Maxwell graduated from IU in 1883 with a degree in physical training and continued onto the Sargent School of Physical Education, which she graduated from in 1890.
Between 1890 and 1892, Maxwell was the Physical Director at Coates College, an all-female school in Terre Haute, IN. She was the only instructor and head of her own department. In 1893, Maxwell was hired at Indiana University as an instructor at the women’s gymnasium to work with Harriet Saunderson. The women’s physical education program was only three years old when Maxwell arrived.
Harriet Saunderson left in 1896 and Maxwell was appointed director of the physical education program for women. One of Maxwell’s main priorities was to construct a new facility for the women’s gymnasium. Maxwell convinced IU President William Lowe Bryan that the previous locations for the gym, Wylie Hall and Mitchell Hall, were too small for the program, and that a new building was necessary. The new women’s gymnasium opened in 1905.
Maxwell was a major supporter of student activities. In 1913, the IU Women’s Athletic Association began on campus with Maxwell as the organization’s treasurer. A new women’s athletic field opened on campus in 1916, with a note in the year’s Arbutus that read “Much credit must be given to [Miss Juliette Maxwell] for the active, yet conservative policy that has led to the splendid development of girl’s athletics.”
Maxwell was appointed as professor in 1922 and continued to teach courses and direct activities for young women’s physical training. In 1928, she retired from Indiana University.
During Maxwell’s tenure, the department of physical training for women grew in class size, hired new professors and faculty, began offering a Bachelor of Science degree, and opened a new gymnasium.
Maxwell retired from Indiana University in 1928, after heading up the department for over 30 years. Nell Martindale succeeded Maxwell as the interim department director, followed by Edna Munro later that same year.
Maxwell passed away in Bloomington at the age of 77 in 1939.
- Olivia B. Waxman, “She Exposed the Discrimination in College Sports Before Title IX. Now She’s a Women’s History Month Honoree,” Time Magazine, March 1, 2018, https://time.com/5175812/title-ix-sports-womens-history/
- “HOOSIER HISTORY: TITLE IX Indiana’s introduction of varsity women’s sports,: Indiana University Athletics, June 23, 2017, https://iuhoosiers.exposure.co/hoosier-history-title-ix
- “HPER Renamed as School of Public Health-Bloomington,” IU Bloomington, May 15, 2018, https://iu.mediaspace.kaltura.com/media/HPER+Renamed+as+School+of+Public+Health-Bloomington/1_x8qytnnx
- “IU Chronology,” IU Libraries, https://libraries.indiana.edu/iu-chronology
- “Description of P0021414” Indiana University Archives Photography Collection. 1850.
- “Faculty” Arbutus 1894
- Munro, Edna. “History of the Department of Physical Education for Women At Indiana University”. Indiana University, Bloomington. 1971
- Maxwell, Juliette. “Correspondence to the Board of Trustees of Indiana University”. Indiana University Archives. 1902.
- “Women’s Athletic Association” Arbutus. 1914
- “Athletics” Arbutus. 1916.
 Olivia B. Waxman, “She Exposed the Discrimination in College Sports Before Title IX. Now She’s a Women’s History Month Honoree,” Time Magazine, March 1, 2018, https://time.com/5175812/title-ix-sports-womens-history/
 “HOOSIER HISTORY: TITLE IX Indiana’s introduction of varsity women’s sports,” Indiana University Athletics, June 23, 2017, https://iuhoosiers.exposure.co/hoosier-history-title-ix
 “HOOSIER HISTORY: TITLE IX Indiana’s introduction of varsity women’s sports,”
 “HPER Renamed as School of Public Health-Bloomington,” IU Bloomington, May 15, 2018, https://iu.mediaspace.kaltura.com/media/HPER+Renamed+as+School+of+Public+Health-Bloomington/1_x8qytnnx
 “Description of P0021414” Indiana University Archives Photography Collection. 1850.
 “Faculty” Arbutus 1894
 Munro, Edna. “History of the Department of Physical Education for Women At Indiana University.” Indiana University, Bloomington. 1971
 Maxwell, Juliette. “Correspondence to the Board of Trustees of Indiana University.” Indiana University Archives. 1902.
 “Women’s Athletic Association” Arbutus. 1914
 “Athletics” Arbutus. 1916.